EghtesadOnline: Atotal of 534,591 tons of non-oil goods worth $301.08 million were exported from Astara County’s road, rail and sea border crossings in the current Iranian year’s first eight months (March 21-Nov. 21), registering a slight change in weight but a 28% rise in value year-on-year, according to the director general of Astara Customs Office.
“During the same eight-month period, around 139,983 tons of goods valued at $98.46 million were imported through Astara,” Karim Rasouli was also quoted as saying by IRNA.
Fruit and vegetable, construction materials, tile and ceramic, chickpeas, banana and medium-density fiber boards accounted for the lion’s share of traded goods.
The official noted that 284,605 tons of commodities were transited through the northern border terminal during the period, registering a 63% growth YOY.
Rice, tea, chickpeas and flour had the biggest share of the transit goods.
Located in the northern Gilan Province, Astara borders the Caspian Sea and Azarbaijan Republic and is considered one of Iran’s main trade and transit gateways.
Significance of Astara Railroad in Cargo Transport
Azerbaijan and Iran conduct rail, road and sea trade through Astara, the most important border crossing point between the two countries, Spokesman of the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration Rouhollah Latifi told Trend News Agency.
Commenting on transit through the International North-South Transport Corridor, Latifi said that thanks to a $65-million investment by Azerbaijan, Astara railroad is important for transporting goods to Azerbaijan, Russia and other countries.
The spokesman noted that a special economic zone has been established in Iran’s Astara Port and goods are currently being transported through this zone.
"The neighboring Azerbaijan is of special importance to Iran due to its geographical position. Goods are transported to Russia, the Black Sea countries and Georgia through Azerbaijan. For this purpose, Iran has implemented ‘eTIR Project’ with Azerbaijan, making it the second country after Turkey," he said.
Latifi emphasized that even during the most difficult period of the coronavirus pandemic, all border customs checkpoints of Iran and Azerbaijan were functioning.
"With the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, Iran's land border checkpoints with neighboring countries were closed. However, the Astara border checkpoint was never closed and trade between Iran and Azerbaijan continued. Iran's Bileh Savar border checkpoint with Azerbaijan has been operating normally for several months. During the coronavirus pandemic, products were being transported through this checkpoint," he explained.
At present, the situation is normal, as Iranian trucks transport goods to Azerbaijan and from there to other countries, by observing the health protocols.
Growing Ties With Azerbaijan
Iran's trade with Azerbaijan increased by 22.9% in terms of value and 19.7% in terms of tonnage, during the first six months of the current Iranian year (March 21-Sept. 22), compared with the same period of last year, the IRICA spokesman said.
According to Latifi, Iran traded 403,000 tons of goods worth $234 million with Azerbaijan during the period.
"Iran exported 389,000 tons of goods worth about $212 million to Azerbaijan, which indicate an increase of 18% in terms of value and 21.6% in tonnage, compared with the same period of last year," he added.
Iran mainly exports chemicals, construction materials and agricultural products to Azerbaijan.
Latifi noted that Iran imported 13,500 tons of goods worth $22.7 million from Azerbaijan during the period, registering an increase of 102% in terms of value, but a decrease of 16% in terms of volume, compared with the same period of last year.
Iran mainly imported spare parts, foodstuff and textiles from Azerbaijan in the six months.
From Finland to India
The first container train sent from Helsinki (Finland) to the Indian port of Nhava Sheva arrived in Iran through the Astara border, IRIB News reported on June 30.
“The consignment contains 563 tons of paper worth €535,000 carried by 32 cars. The customs formalities in the foreign transit procedure were completed in the shortest time possible so that the goods can be transported to Rasht by trucks,” Rasouli was quoted as saying by IRNA.
Rasht, the capital of Gilan Province, is the largest city on Iran's Caspian Sea coast.
Russia’s JSC Russian Railways Logistics, ADY Container LLC of Azerbaijan and Iran’s Tarkib Trans Company are the project operators.
This is a pilot project implemented as a result of close cooperation between railroad operators of countries participating in the International North-South Transport Corridor. Depending on the results of the current pilot project, block trains will move regularly along the corridor.
INSTC is a major transit route designed to facilitate the transportation of goods from Mumbai in India to Helsinki in Finland, using Iranian ports and railroads, which the Islamic Republic plans to connect to those of Azerbaijan and Russia.
The corridor will connect Iran with Russia’s Baltic ports and give Russia rail connectivity to both the Persian Gulf and the Indian rail network.
This means goods could be carried from Mumbai to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas and further to Baku. They could then pass across the Russian border into Astrakhan before proceeding to Moscow and St. Petersburg, before entering Europe.
INSTC would substantially cut the travel time for everything from Asian consumer goods to Central Eurasia’s natural resources to advanced European exports.